Planning board agrees: Pause N.C. 54 projects

Staff WriterMay 29, 2008 

— The town Planning Board has backed a resident's call for a yearlong ban on development on N.C. 54 East, a main gateway into town.

Henry Lister, a resident of Sherwood Forest off N.C. 54, asked the Chapel Hill Town Council for a moratorium last week. The Planning Board, which advises the council, voted 6-0 the next day to support his petition. Three voting members were absent.

"There wasn't a lot of discussion, because everyone was relieved that people were thinking about [a moratorium]," Planning Board Chairman George Cianciolo said in an interview.

"We just want to find out -- get a sense of -- what is it that the council and the citizens want for this town: Do they want high density residential? Do they want more commercial?"

Cianciolo said the town hasn't revised its comprehensive plan in 10 years.

"How big do we want Chapel Hill to be? What would that Chapel Hill look like, 30 years from now?" he asked.

N.C. 54 East could support more dense development with more extensive transit service and future projects that encourage people to take the bus instead of their cars, Cianciolo said.

Lister's petition said the moratorium would buy time for more careful growth, especially for big projects.

Several multiple-use villages are proposed for the highway.

The biggest, Meadowmont developer Roger Perry's East 54, was approved last year for the old Best Western University Inn property. The 12-acre East 54 site will have 180 condos, with offices, shops, restaurants and a new hotel.

Developers also are eyeing redevelopment of the Glen Lennox shopping center and cottage-style apartments. Woodmont is in the public hearing phase of the process.

The developers of Aydan Court, a strictly residential subdivision, have submitted a permit application to the town.

Woodmont and Aydan Court would not be affected by a moratorium because they are too far along in the review process. East 54's permit is already approved.

The Glen Lennox redevelopment concept plan -- the first step in the development process -- goes before the town's Community Design Commission in August, and to the Town Council after that.

meiling.arounnarath@newsobserver.com or (919) 932-2004

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